Foolproof Fitness Hacks to Get You Moving — Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

How to trick yourself mentally to get the most out of working out
A 3rd annual Blood, Sweat and Stairs participant grabs kettlebells at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, during the competition Oct. 15, 2016. (Senior Airman Joshua Edwards/U.S. Air Force photo)

Sometimes, getting started with a workout is harder than actually doing the workout. The following fitness hacks can help when training is on the schedule, but you might not be 100% into it.

There are many mindset hacks you can do and other tricks that can get you moving in the right direction. Most of them are right out of sports psychology, but many are just personal memory statements to get you through the demotivated state and into a more disciplined state:

First, there are two physiological things that you can do to help make the decision process easier on yourself. Those are having enough fuel (nutrition) and sleep (recovery) since you last worked out.

Good night's sleep. A good night's sleep is critical to energy levels on the following day. It is our No. 1 recovery tool, so do not neglect it. Sleep is important to energy levels, stress levels, and overall mental and physical performance each day.

Nutrition/fuel. Together with sleep, nutrition is the fuel that keeps you going and actually can be the most common issue with your lack of energy to train at a given time. Consider the ABDs of nutrition and do not forget hydration and electrolytes. Not going out drinking or being hung over during scheduled workouts will help you when it is just you and your morning thoughts determining your fitness activity.

Motivation evolves into discipline. You will not always be motivated to work out. I have often said when in this state, "I am going to work out, because I don't feel like it." This statement has multiple benefits. It can get you moving again, but it also recognizes that motivation alone is not what gets you through these moments. It is your habits and discipline.

The blending of the physiological and the psychological occurs during this decision process. Be armed and ready to use both systems when needed. In the end, it will come down to you, your thoughts and the habits that you created.

When you are on a roll when it comes to building solid habits, you will see that a few days of letting yourself skip workouts can start a snowball effect, and you will have created a new habit of skipping workouts. Try to avoid this, as it is easier to get through the process with some momentum behind you.

Here are clever ways to talk yourself into getting moving:

First of all, "do not listen to yourself; talk to yourself." Your own voice has to override the internal voices that are telling you to stay comfortable, take it easy and not train.

After telling myself to "go train because you don't feel like it," I then tell myself, "I always feel better after a workout than skipping it." This one is so true. Skipping workouts can leave you feeling rather lethargic if you are used to training before work or to get your day started.

It may take a few hours of caffeine drinks before you actually become productive. Plus, the guilt of missing a workout can mess with your head for a few hours -- though, personally, I find that this is good. It makes you not want to feel that way when it happens again. Because it will happen again.

When all else is failing, go deep into your why. Remember why you started training in the first place and ask yourself, "Does this support the life I am trying to create for myself?"

One final group of brain hacks when it comes to physical performance is right out of sports psychology -- the performance cue. Performance cues are words said out loud or under your breath to get you into a primed state of being.

"Sport psychologists often recommend that athletes develop their own cue word to help with in-game focus, motivation and resiliency," said Dr. Chris Stankovich of Advanced Human Performance Systems. "Sometimes, action words are used [like 'explode' or 'dominate'], while other times acronyms are developed that have unique meaning to the athlete [like 'WS' standing for 'win state']. Cue words can also be instructional, like 'ready-set-fire,' something a pitcher in baseball or softball might use to help with the focus needed to make a successful pitch."

My personal favorite performance cues are "A Game" or "showtime" when I have to bring my A Game or focus on an event that causes anxiety, like a test or public speaking event. These have a way of reducing the "pregame jitters" and help get you started.

The best way to create a performance cue is to remember a particular exciting achievement, like a fast mile pace, max bench press or 20 pull-ups. Tie a word to that feeling of accomplishment and associate these feelings with that word from now on, and you may find that the mind is stronger than how you feel physically at any given time.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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